SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) demands to be the fairest of them all - and when her beauty status is challenged by her step daughter, the innocent Snow White (Kristen Stewart), she sends her Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) on a mission to kill her in the dark and dangerous woods. The Huntsman can't bring himself to kill her and becomes her mentor in a quest to conquer the evil Queen.
Review by Louise Keller:
More action and special effects than fairy tale, the film looks ravishing with its stylish design driven production, but there's no heart in this latest re-imagining of the Grimm Brothers' story. It's hard to miss the irony, as it is Snow White's pure and innocent heart that is the priceless gem the wicked Queen seeks in pursuit of immortality - to maintain her youth, beauty and power. Additionally, Charlize Theron's brittle, calculating Queen is so over the top that I was more interested in watching the amazing visual effects that transform her ravishing, raven feather cape into an elaborate flock of ravens.
Fresh from the Twilight franchise, Kristen Stewart, who knows a lot about immortality, is lovely as Snow White, spending much of the time wide-eyed and tearful before waking up enlightened by true love's kiss. The twist to the fairytale in Evan Daugherty's debut screenplay comes in the well-built form of Chris Hemworth as the Huntsman, sent by the Queen to the forest to find Snow White. Instead of being a romantic figure, like William (Sam Claflin), son of the Duke with whom Snow White grew up, the Huntsman is a widower who drinks to drown his sorrows. His relationship with Snow White is a feisty one and the film might have benefited by a little more attention spent on the chemistry between the two, instead of the overlong battle scenes, fight sequences and special effect dazzle.
There's something quite eerie about seeing the familiar faces of Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Ian McShane and Ray Winstone in the bodies of the dwarves, who help Snow White and the Huntsman escape from the Queen's army. This novel decision by the filmmakers to use well known English character actors in this way is more of a distraction than an advantage.
There is no doubt that successful television commercial director Rupert Sanders brings visual style to the proceedings with exquisite production design captured by beautiful cinematography. But it is the special effects and visual trickery that dominates and watching the beautiful, statuesque Theron morph into varying stages of decrepit old age is fascinating indeed. As an action adventure, there are plusses and as for the infamous mirror on the wall, the filmmakers have opted to use a large bronze plate that melts to become a feature-less figure - a bit like the Terminator's silvery nemesis, only far less interesting.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The original and rather preposterous, black fairytale about a wickedly vain Queen and her beautiful stepdaughter (possibly originating in the Middle Ages) has enjoyed a variety of interpretations, most notably of course by the brothers Grimm. In this latest telling, precious little is left of the Grimm version, with magic powers, immortality and metamorphosis thrown into the mix. For example, the story's central non-human character, the mirror - which should anchor the work - is a bizarre and miscalculated creation which morphs into a golden faceless figure, with the cheesiest voice and delivery in recent memory.
The film is made with great attention to visual excitement, and opens on a splendid white domain and the lone figure of Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) seen from above and behind. It ends on a sombre note inside a cathedral, but in between, there are plenty of striking effects and tricks to keep the eyes entertained and excellent design elements. If only as much attention were paid to the screenplay and some of the performances ...
Wooden delivery and cheesy moments abound, except when the dwarves are in action. Relying on veteran English character actors (eg Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones and Ian McShane), the filmmakers turn what we used to imagine as charming little folk with an abundance of good nature, into a slightly grotesque team of rough and ready individuals, who at least give the film some texture and fun. They look hideously amusing and act accordingly.
The simple moral of the original story about the price of excessive vanity is supercharged with a vampire derivative, which puts Theron in the unenviable position of having to ham it up over and above being an evil stepmother. She undergoes several morphs, including ageing and turning into a hundred ravens, some of which she has to deliver while writhing.
Kristen Stewart wears a pained expression much of the time and is often speechless when we are expecting her to respond to events. This affliction also strikes the entire community when she emerges for her moment of glory to take charge and inspire them before charging the castle to unseat the evil Queen. Chris Hemsworth does reasonably well as the widowed Huntsman, whose back story gives him some emotional tissue to work with, but don't expect any romantic sparks between the principals; it's pretty tame. As for the (non-dwarf) supporting cast, they could have done with firmer direction from Rupert Sanders.
Sanders squanders the opportunity to deliver a definitive Snow White for the 21st century in contempo cinematic terms, using the original idea as just a springboard - but the expanded story gets tangled in a heap of mumbo jumbo that is both derivative and overworked. But that's always the risk when you try to make a serious adult movie out of an old fairytale; it's like trying to inflate a bicycle tyre to fit onto the wheel of your Porsche.
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SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (M)
CAST: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson
PRODUCER: Sam Mercer, Palak Patel, Joe Roth
DIRECTOR: Rupert Sanders
SCRIPT: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greig Fraser
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV, Neil Smith
MUSIC: James Newton Howard
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dominic Watkins
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 21, 2012
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.